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CERRO DE LOS SANTOS Albacete, Spain.

Site at the municipal border of Montealegre del Castillo, occasionally confused with the nearby Llano de la Consolación. At the crown of the hill are the remains of an Iberian sanctuary. Its nucleus was a temple in antis, based on bedrock, with its plan recognizable although the structure itself had disappeared. Its dimensions are 15.6 by 9.9 m, with a doorway 2.6 m wide. Access was by two flights of steps. The walls, to judge by what was still in place a century ago, were formed by a double course of squared blocks held together by lead clamps. The building was covered with roof tiles, and may have had a pavement of rhomboidal termacotta floor tiles.

Excavations in the 19th c. uncovered some 300 pieces of stone sculpture, for the most part now in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, although some are in other museums and private collections. More recent investigation has shown that the deposit occupies the center of a dense pine-Roman and Roman settlement. Many of the sculptures were found on the slopes of the hill, and their poor preservation can have been due only partly to erosion as some of the pieces seem to have been broken intentionally. The statuary in the round, and to a lesser degree the low reliefs, seems to date from the 4th to the 1st c. B.C.; in the latest excavations there was not a single ceramic find from the Imperial Roman period, although there were some coins, which had doubtless been displaced in later searches for building material.

No ancient literary sources allude to the sanctuary nor can the site be identified with any ancient town. The Cerro de los Santos has none of the usual characteristics of a developed Iberian sanctuary. Apart from architectural fragments such as capitals, the sculptures in stone have the characteristics of votive offerings. Except for a few examples of animals, the subjects are human beings, almost always single figures, usually female; in only one instance is there a group. Some pieces show inscriptions in an Iberic alphabet, while a few have Latin letters (there are also a considerable number of forgeries and reworked fragments). The ex-votos accumulated over many generations. Some were produced under Roman domination and may be classed with the Roman provincial art of the Iberian peninsula, but these are few. On the basis of the jewelry carved on the female figures, the earliest sculptures should be dated as far back as the 4th c. B.C., but it is difficult to construct a chronological sequence, owing to the variety of the figures and their costumes, even when they may be contemporary.

All the sculpture was cut in soft sandstone from local quarries. This fact, combined with the absence of early excavation records, has led to the attribution to Cerro de los Santos of pieces that might have been discovered in the Llano de la Consolación or on other sites of the districts of Montealegre and Yecla. Some pieces show traces of polychrome coloring, which appears to reflect a common practice. Further, a xoanon-like quality has been postulated in these figures, although this might better be attributed to working in soft local stone.

Excluding isolated heads and fragments of busts, the female figures are statuettes with tiara-like headdress or cloak. Standing figures predominate, though some are seated on a chair or throne. In their costumes a step-like rendering of the folds is reminiscent of archaic Greek sculpture. Also reminiscent is the rendering of eyes, hair, and jewelry. The male statues show similar traits. All these wear the same costume, a girt pallium grasped by the right hand. Many have their heads uncovered, with hair worked like that on archaic Greek statues. A few wear earrings or pendant bullae, some a cap or bonnet; the only warrior is armed with a short sword.


P. Savirón, Noticias de varias excavaciones del Cerro de los Santos, en el término de Montealegre (1875)MP; J. de la Rada y Delgado, Antigüedades del Cerro de los Santos (1875); P. Paris, Essai sur l'Art et l'Industrie de l'Espagne primitive (1903); id., Promenades archéologiques en Espagne I (1910); J. R. Mélida, Las esculturas del Cerro de los Santos. Questión de autenticidad (1906); J. Zuazo, La villa de Montealegre y su Cerro de los Santos (1915); A. Garcíia y Bellido, “De Escultuma ibérica,” ArchEspArq 16 (1943) 272, 292MP; id., “Arte Ibérico,” Historia de España I, 3 (1955) 483-541; A. Fernández de Avilés, “Escultura del Cerro de los Santos,” ArchEspArq 16 (1943) 361-87; id., “La colección de los Padres Escolapios de Yecla,” ibid. 21 (1948) 360-72; id., Cerro de los Santos (1966).


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